The value of straight-talking products

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Pawfect Foods’ Prash Patwardhan discusses the value of straight-talking products in a new age of brand transparency.

Long Overdue Category Innovation

Petcare (food & treats) has needed a revamp for ever and a day! Here is a historically low-maintenance, recession proof category dominated by a small number of major multi-nationals until agitating disruptors dictate that these behemoths up their game. Yes, brands like Pawfect (UK), Innocent Hound, Nutriment, NoBL, and Woof can have a real impact, helping to refresh ways of thinking and rejuvenating bland pet food fixtures, while simultaneously building vocal huddles of passionate pet parents. However, the real positive benefit of ‘underdog’ petfood pioneers is forcing the pet care quality bar to be raised through education.

Dogs might well have been thinking that the food popped in their bowl was a little dreary for decades, but were never in a position to share this insight with their pet parents. As a result, nothing was ever going to change until health-conscious dog owners, who were already adept at deciphering the nutritional integrity and clean nature of their own mealtimes, started taking a closer at the often hard-to-decipher ingredient decks tucked around the back of their pets’ food tin or pouch.

One of the few upsides of lockdown was that stuckat-home, healthier living pet owners finally had the time and inclination to not only revisit and recalibrate their family’s diets, but look more closely at the ingredients in their favourite dog foods. Hopefully, this will accelerate the determined push for tasty health and well-being pet food and treats.

You’ll see from the Nature’s Kitchen image on this page that Pawfect has taken a lead from human ‘hero’ brands like Innocent, placing its ingredient deck front-of-back, as well as explaining down the side-of-pack the nutritional merits of each and every fruit, seed, veg, and herb it uses.

Ingredient Integrity

While there are reasons why people feed what they feed to their pets: availability, cost, and lifestyle, it’s finally time to ask awkward questions like: What exactly are meat derivatives? Do cheap ‘filler’ grains offer dogs any plausible nutritional benefits? What on Earth is the purpose of butylated hydroxyanisole (E320), poultry flavouring, and sodium tripolyphosphate? Why do some pet food recipes consist of 50-60 odd-sounding ingredients? Today there’s a new breed of ‘limited ingredient’ brands like Pawfect, NoBL, and Pure food that deliberately restrict their recipes to small numbers (8-12) of functional ingredients. Such an approach means a significant shift away from cheap ‘stowaway’ ingredients that offer no nutritional or taste benefits.

Honest Labels

Ingredient deck manipulation (producers) and ingredient deck illiteracy (buyers) must stop while guaranteed analysis, ingredient decks, and feeding guidelines must be more consistent and transparent, focusing solely on informing pet parents with simple and honest terminology that doesn’t seek to befuddle or mislead consumers. The very fact that some brands write 100% natural on the front label yet dabble with synthetic additives shows that there is still a disconnect that needs to be resolved.

Championing Freeze-Dried Thinking

 At Pawfect, we champion freeze-dried food. The most important benefit of freeze-drying technology that cannot be overstated is the nutritional benefits. In the making of dry kibble, the use of heavy-handed, heat-based tech means that many of well-intentioned nutrients contained in the ingredients quickly dissipate. With temperatures in excess of 265F, it’s inevitable that there will significant vitamin loss and protein denaturation, which is why so many companies turn to synthetic supplements and amino acids. Significant usage of synthetics coupled with ‘bulking up’ grains can result in the creation of products that Mother Nature would never countenance. Freeze drying is an expensive process. However, brands like Pawfect are committed to producing the best for the pets, pet parents, and the wider planet. Pawfect’s latest propositions, Nature’s Feast (treats) and Nature’s Kitchen range, are ambitious bids to embrace minimally-processed, freeze-dried thinking that preserves a greater percentage of a recipe’s nutritional worth, while dramatically reducing the end product’s weight, which can have positive carbon footprint implications (given that we are not transporting 70% food moisture around the world).

Provenance

Greater brand transparency and traceability is another key pet food trend that is thankfully coming to the fore in this new age of brand transparency. In Pawfect’s case, we’re especially proud of our authentic Himalayan chhurpi cheese product range, which as the name suggests, is made up in the mountains, at high-altitude using the milk of antibiotic free herds who roam pesticide-free mountain pastures. Imagine our frustration therefore at the dearth of so-called Himalayan chhurpi cheese that is actually made in industrial estates in the very heart of Europe and North America. Why is that an issue? Well, to our way of thinking, our honestly branded chhurpi range is not only protecting the livelihoods of traditional herdsmen. It’s also preserving traditional food making skills that were first established centuries ago. While others focus on high speed, conveyor belt wizardry, we still adhere to the traditional sun drying process of 35 days ensuring the product delivers on its key long-lasting promise. Marrying the traditional art with scientific ways of production and implementing them all in the high altitude has been challenging but immensely satisfying.

Inhouse production

As with so many food and drink categories, a significant proportion of dog food and treats continue to be made by faceless third party producers, who with the best will in the world, have no diehard convictions regarding the various products jiggling down their conveyor belts. That’s why we admire the growing number of one-stop pet food producers like ourselves, such as The Dog Treat Co and Innocent Hound, who insist on retaining total control of their products, be that running production, appointing only the very best staff, and working tirelessly to source only the best available raw materials. Fortunately, today there are lot of dog food companies and start-ups championing honest, transparent product ranges which has to be very good news for the UK’s and globally rapidly increasing dog population.